6 Questions We Get Asked All The Time About Flammable Liquids Storage

Originally published October 18, 2021 12:26:38 AM

We get asked plenty of questions about the correct installation and use of flammable liquid storage cabinets. So, we thought we’d use this blog to answer 6 frequently asked questions about flammable liquids storage, so you can meet the requirements of WHS Legislation and Australian Standards.  

1. Why can’t I put my flammable liquids cabinet next to a power point or electrical outlet? 

Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets should never be installed within 3 metres of an ignition source — and that includes power points and electrical outlets. 

Overloaded and faulty power points, electric sockets and switches can overheat, discharge and spark. And this can cause the flammable vapours, which may be emitted from the stocked cabinet, to ignite and start a fire in your workplace.  

Untitled design (26)Your cabinet should never be installed within 3 metres of a power point as sparks can ignite a workplace fire.

According to Australian Standards, an ignition source is defined as: 

A source of energy sufficient to ignite a flammable or explosive atmosphere. Examples of ignition sources include naked flames, hot surfaces, exposed incandescent material, electrical wiring arcs, mechanical or static sparks, hot particles, electrical discharge, and electrical or mechanical equipment not suitable for use in hazardous locations. 

You must always ensure that your flammable cabinet is not installed in a location that’s within 3 metres of an ignition source such as electrical equipment, hot surfaces, naked flames or mechanical machinery. 

However, we do need to clarify that the 3-metre rule only applies to ignition sources that are located in the same workspace or in direct contact with the cabinet. The rule doesn’t apply to power points or electrical outlets that are installed behind a shared wall in another room of your business.  

2. Can I put my flammable liquids cabinet outside?

Yes, and no. If your flammable liquids cabinet has been made from heavy duty materials, AND has adequate reinforcement, AND is installed inside an exterior barrier to protect it from impact damage — technically your cabinet can be used outside. But we don’t recommend it. 

STOREMASTA safety cabinets-882606-editedWhile there are some circumstances when an indoor cabinet can be placed outdoors, our Dangerous Goods Specialists don’t recommend it.

Indoor flammable liquids cabinets are dual-skinned and designed to contain all flammable vapours, leaks and spills within the cabinet.  

But if the cabinet is used outside this liquid-tight design presents two major problems: 

  1. If rainwater or moisture penetrates the cabinet and gets into the dual walls, the cabinet could corrode and deteriorate. 
  2. Indoor flammable liquid storage cabinets don’t have natural ventilation and in extreme heat, the vapours levels inside the cabinet can increase and create an explosion hazard.

When storing flammable liquids outside, choose a single-walled chemical store — purpose built for Class 3 Flammable Liquids. Outdoor flammable liquid stores that feature cambered roofs for rainwater run off and natural ventilation that is compliant with the Australian Standard AS 1940:2017, will provide your dangerous goods with the protection that they require in the outdoor environment. 

difference between indoor and outdoor

Outdoor flammable liquids stores are specifically designed and built to store these chemicals in an outdoor environment.

3. What signs do I need to put on my flammable liquids  cabinet? 

According to AS 1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids, a flammable liquids cabinet requires the following signage: 

  • ‘NO SMOKING, NO IGNITION SOURCES WITHIN 3m’ — warning placard with lettering at least 50mm high 
  • Class 3 Flammable Liquids — Dangerous Goods label at least 250mm (nominal length)
  • Maximum capacity of the cabinet
  • Name and address of the manufacturer 
  • Name of the Australian distributor (if the cabinet is imported) 

The cabinet must be installed in an area that has sufficient lighting, so staff can clearly see the signage. Safety signage for Class 3 Flammable Liquids cabinets must also be visible at all times —  including when the cabinet doors are shut.  

Remember to maintain your safety signage and replace any missing signs, so you can continue to meet the requirements of WHS Regulations and Australian Standards.

4. I’ve reduced the amount of flammable liquids I now store onsite. Can I recommission my flammable liquids cabinet and use it for another type of chemical?

No. A flammable liquids cabinet is made from specific construction materials and componentry to fully contain flammable vapours and liquid spills. These materials may be incompatible for use with other hazard classes (eg, acids and strong corrosives). 

Keep your workplace safe by correctly segregating different classes of Dangerous Goods and only using safety cabinets that are purpose-built for each different type of chemical.  

Remember, there are 9 classes of dangerous goods and each of these classes have specific requirements for their safe storage. Don’t use a flammable cabinet to store another class of dangerous goods, as this practice will put your organisation at risk. 

Untitled design (27) Your flammable liquids cabinet must only be used to store Class 3 Flammable Liquids.

5. Is it compulsory to have a safety shower and eyewash station installed next to my flammable liquid’s cabinet? 

If your workers are at risk of skin or eye injury from the flammable liquids stored in a flammable liquid’s cabinet, you will require some sort of first aid equipment.  

These are requirements of: 

  • AS 1940:2017 – The storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids 
  • AS 4775:2007 — Emergency eyewash and shower equipment 
  • Code of Practice: First aid in the workplace 

Installing an eyewash station and/or safety shower should only be done after conducting a risk assessment on the chemicals (and other) hazards present in work and dangerous goods storage areas. 

STOREMASTA Blog Image - A Quick Guide to Selecting Plumbed Emergency Eyewash Stations and Showers If there is a risk that your workers could suffer an eye or skin injury, you must install some type of first aid equipment near your cabinet.

The physical properties of the chemicals, quantities kept, frequency of use/contact by workers will determine whether you need a hand-held eye flush cartridges or a fully plumbed safety shower with eyewash unit.

STOREMASTA floor mounted eyewash station top viewYour risk assessment may determine the need for a decontamination station to be installed for your flammable liquids stores.

6. Does it matter if I load the cabinet past the capacity marked on the front of the cabinet?

Yes, it does. To meet the requirements of Australian Safety Standards, indoor flammable liquids cabinets have a fitted spill containment sump — based on the capacity rating of the cabinet. If you overload the cabinet, the spill sump will not be capable of fully containing a leak or spill. 

Staff using Flammable Cabinet

The maximum capacity for your cabinet is clearly marked on the front of your cabinet and should never be exceeded.

It’s also important to note that an indoor cabinet is also designed to completely contain flammable vapours. If you overload the cabinet, the vapour levels may breach workplace exposure standards — as well as create an explosive atmosphere inside the cabinet. 

You should also keep in mind that flammable liquids stored indoors are restricted to certain aggregate quantities. Overloading your cabinet with Class 3 Flammable Liquids may also put you in breach of the maximum allowable chemical quantities. 

SpillageOverloading a safety cabinet will compromise the capacity of the spill sump, which can result in hazardous chemical spills in your workplace.

Any More Questions About Flammable Liquids Storage? 

We hope we’ve answered some of the questions you may have had about the safe storage of Class 3 Flammable Liquids. If you’d still like to learn more about chemical compliance and the storage of flammable liquids, why not download our helpful eBook?  

Essential Considerations When Storing Flammable Liquids Indoors details everything you need to know about how to select, install, load and maintain a compliant flammable liquids cabinet. We’ll also introduce you to our risk management methodology: IDENTIFY – ASSESS – CONTROL – SUSTAIN, which you can easily apply to your own workplace. Get your copy of our eBook for free now by clicking on the below image.  

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Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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